Empathy

Ink

I have most recently decided to take a few extra steps forward with tattooing. For the past year, I had been looking for apprenticeship opportunities all over the city - but none of them seemed to fall through. So I decided to teach myself. I purchased a rotary machine two months ago, and decided to tattoo myself to get a hang of things. After a really strange experience tattooing my own knee, I decided to give it a go on someone else. I had done a variety of research around maintaining a proper hygienic standard with the tools and space - I was ready. My drawings seemed to grab the attention of a few friends, and with that came an evolution of my own style - a more refined one, a visual language that works better in the form of a tattoo. I opened up an Instagram account, and started to exhibit my drawings and tattoos. 

It seems as though my work, as fragmented as it is in medium, chronology, and context, seems to always want to tell a story. As if each piece somehow pinpoints a moment in time in this little reality.  The sphere as a placeholder? A reminder that we are back in that reality?

With time, finding ways to remind myself of how to acquire tranquility  within a traumatized mind has become a passionate pursue of mine. The tattoos on my own body have symbolized those reminders, images that eventually translate into states - building somewhat of a relationship with these images on my body can be described as therapeutic. 

The sphere is that reminder in my works - a reminder to enter a mindset, a journey in an attempt to grasp the nature of Empathy. 

Can that process of migration into that realm, to recognize a symbol and  allow it to guide you through an inconsistent narrative, be in itself a practice of Empathy? 

A Pause

I’ve been struggling to write these days. I’ve been in a state of making - reflecting ideas outwards and executing them immediately. I’ve acquired some sort of pace, a routine of some sort. It seems as though this method has prioritized my making process, but has put the reflection process on pause. I’ve decided to make an effort to start writing more frequently - no matter how informal/disorganized it may be. I should start seeing the blog as having the ability to act as a time capsule - revisiting ideas, my own history, opinion, research, work. 


I recorded a two-track EP with my band Laura K Prophet. 

I have never been able to dive this deeply into music before, to be able to learn the intricate engineering behind it all. We spent two days at Monarch Studios - the first day was dedicated to making sure all the instruments are recorded properly (bed tracks)- with their sounds perfected either through re-amping or other analogue techniques. The next day was dedicated to vocals and other textures. I spent the entire morning laying out vocals and layers, experimenting with different microphones (The C12 Vintage was my favourite) and the possibilities of vocal layering and delay. I was able to witness the way space is engineered through analogue methods. I was lucky enough to be surrounded by individuals who managed to work with my visual-thinking. I was able to communicate my suggestions through images, and the engineer was able to understand and further translate that idea into sound. 

This render was inspired by a conversation I had with the engineer about how I wanted my vocals to sound in relationship to the synthesizer near the end of one of our tracks. I was trying to describe the vocals falling in slow motion from above - plush but elastic, adaptable and moldable, but always managing to retain itself. The Synthesizer a fast growing tree, sharper branches, echoic, reflective. I wanted them to collide, but not destroy one another - somewhat of a balanced coexistence of sharp and smooth.


I’ve been tattooing more frequently. 

I’ve grown accustomed to the tattoo machine, its vibrations, voltage settings, needle size, ink densities, skin varieties. I’ve been noticing a sizeable amount of improvement after every tattoo - this is building my confidence with the tool, making me eager to experiment and further my learnings within this practice.


It seems as though this program (MFA) has facilitated the ways in which other endeavours of art-making are interconnected. I’ve come to develop a clearer visual language, furthering my understanding of the screen and its capabilities. Tattooing is elaborating the two-dimensional, the plane. Music is contributing largely to my conceptual framework of space, and my digital fine art is becoming a language in which I communicate these ideas. In connecting these ideas, translating, bridging. In doing so I have come closer to an awareness of what a “digital artist” (for the lack of a better term) is suggestive of. 


Discovering the framework of Empathy has been a starting point that I’ve managed to remain consistent with. So far I’ve come to a moment of reflection, in which I need to contemplate the following ideas:

Can Empathy be achieved as a consistent state of being or a state that fluctuates based on exposures to instinct and survival mechanisms? Or neither? 

How do/ do Empathy and the Sphere (further research/exploration needed) connect?

Can material (texture), represented in digital form (renderings), achieve an added awareness to space and environment to the visual language of the screen?

Can expanding quality and scale of renderings, projecting them in large spaces, immerse the viewer into its world more effectively? 

What would 3D renderings feel like as large-scale prints exhibited in vast empty spaces with sculptural objects (connecting to elements within the render) surrounding the area?

What does it mean to be an artist? To me? 

Tutorial (2)

Body contort3.jpg

Jonathan Kearney - January 14th - 10:15am - Skype

Jonathan and I discussed how my scope and direction has narrowed down - A strong focus on ‘empathy’ as a concept. Reoccurring symbols, such as spheres and hands, appear to have become a language - a methodology in comprehending further discoveries about empathy. We further examined the role of family/culture and familiarity in my creative process, and future documentations i’d like to capture in Beirut over the summer - intergenerational, trilingual, history, home.  It seems as though most recent works have become a reflection of ‘empathy’, an attempt to grasp the concept as a whole as a still life (through 3D renderings). I see this process becoming part of a larger ‘circulatory’ narrative - displayed on screen. Various mediums, contexts, languages - all attempting to define/imagine/distribute empathy. 

We discussed the blog as a platform, a mirror - meant as a time capsule, to re-examine the evolution of my creative endeavours and processes. I struggled with the language, but Jonathan encouraged the fragmentation of language, as long as it could be accurately re-examined and comprehended in the future. 

My next steps are to document and upload the works I’ve generated over the break, examine the relationships between them, and carry forward with a more evolved visual language - even using different mediums such as film, paint, photography, glass/chrome?


Empathy in Spheres

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“There is not a single definition of empathy. The explanandum being heterogeneous, we cannot expect to discover a common mechanism explaining it. What is meant by empathy depends on the basic scientific/clinical/philosophical question. Within the neurosciences, empathy is shifting from a simple automatic bottom- up process to a more complex phenomenon in which different mechanisms (either bottom-up and top-down processing) are involved”. (Massimiliano 11)



Sources:

Aragona, Massimiliano. “The Many Faces of Empathy, between Phenomenology and Neuroscience.” Academia.edu - Share Research, 2013, www.academia.edu/5590572/The_many_faces_of_empathy_between_phenomenology_and_neuroscience.

Musicians & Chemists

I’ve been contemplating the presence of music in our lives - what does “music” even mean? I sat down with my band members, and we decided to have an open conversation about the way that we perceive music. For some reason, the conversation started off with how each of us came to understand the impact of music, and the ways in which it has informed the way we perceive it now. I was taught how to play the piano in a conservatory, my hands would get slapped every time i got a note wrong - I was taught to read notes like a robot, and if I ever glitched-out, I would get slightly punished for it. I decided to end my time learning there, it felt like the opposite of what music meant for me. During the Lebanese war in 2006 was when i first came to understand the impact of the piano. Bombs would fall from fighter planes almost algorithmically, the echos were bone-jolting. I sat on the piano one afternoon, and played to the sound of the harsh echos. As i played, I started to understand the algorithm of the bombings, the strategy of the combat, which calmed me down - I was able to discover how manufacturing sound helped me re-examine a situation and perceive it a little differently, a little lighter.  I also came to understand my voice during the war. I would sing as I played the piano, and adding that layer of sound seemed to strengthen my re-examining of the situation, it helped me come into terms with what was actually going on, it helped me discover an empathic connection to the chaotic outside. 

We discussed the impact of music, how it brings people closer together, builds a community. But we went even deeper, discovering that music can have the power to manufacture a shift of perception - to be able to step out of our mental space and rediscover another one, a new one - empathy? This got me thinking about Art, and how this concept is also apparent in the gallery space. But why is music something separate to this? Isn’t it the same? Why don’t we see music more often in the gallery space? 

A musician is like a chemist - manufacturing a track is like manufacturing a drug. The only difference is that one works with sound, the other works with substance. Is sound a substance? 

I’ve come to appreciate my identity as an audio-visual artist, the importance of visualization. Sound inspires image, image inspires sound - it’s the way my mind functions. It seems as though i’ve been steering away from combining the two - keeping them in a separate space so that they can be understood on different levels. But why should I do that? Why not allow myself the opportunity to expose that visualization - that all-encompassing combination of sound and image. 


‘Believe in existence spent
To separate us from them
To know that your blood runs thin
Is to live with the truth within’




Simulations

I’ve recently been experimenting with algorithmically relocating planes in meshes using Cinema 4D. I’ve also been working with generating particle turbulence and wind - manufacturing virtual physics. Doing so has expanded the ways in which i perceive objects on a daily basis. It seems as though a hyper-awareness of ‘parts’ provides the eyes with an ability to appreciate the very object itself - as a whole. Using 3D software is starting to widen my understanding of space and time; being able to replicate reality with so many functions is giving me the opportunity to look more closely at my environment - the little parts that eventually make up the whole. 

I’m curious as to how this technique could come into play with future works, or perhaps inform a way of thinking about material, space and time. I wonder what could come out of simulating subtle exaggerations of our physical reality- tweaking with gravity, hyperbolizing wind, adjusting properties of objects. 

‘Reality’ is a very abstract term. Is reality based on a shared understanding of space and thought? Is reality a personal journey that can only be understood and accepted by the passenger? Is reality the grey area in between? Contemplating the fluidity of ‘reality’ and its complete lack of consistency, perhaps could act as a starting point in reflecting on ‘empathy’. 

A Fragmented Body

Lost in the words of others, I am not that ‘man’ in the mirror; he is but a fragmented body with jutting shards that have been acknowledged ferociously by those around him – a glitched figure, some would say. It’s hard to get away from him, he’s everywhere; whether through the reflective window of a coffee shop, or in the forefront of the washroom, he’s always there, and I’m forced to face him. But what if I never had to? In my ideal realm, where reflective frames are absent, imagination takes the wheel on a journey of self-discovery.

The mirror, to some, is an essential part of human development; the Mirror-stage, for instance, “a particular case of the function of the imago, which is to establish a relation between the organism and its reality – or as they say, between the innenwelt [inside word] and the Umwelt [the outside world]” (Lacan 4), seems evidently essential in the understanding of the self. But what happens if that connection is not established? What if the organism’s self is but a manifestation imposed upon it by its surrounding world – a victim of fabricated images? According to Magnolia Pauker, if the mirror-stage is unsuccessful, “you’re fucked” (Who are I? The Uses of Psychoanalysis); and in all my ‘fucked-ness’ emerges a disjointed self, in an attempt to destroy the mirror.

Empathy, “the psychological identification with or vicarious experiencing of the feelings, thoughts, or attitudes of another.” (“Empathy”), occurs in the disabling of one’s own mirror; in the power of overcoming one’s own reflection, transpires a transcendent connection between one’s self and another. Absorption occurs, through imaginative thinking, as the self is situated in the mirror of the other. In Daehyun Kim’s drawing Sharing Face with Me in The Shadow (2015), empathy is illustrated as two subjects sharing a shadow in hopes of reconciliation; a galactic veil is transferred from one figure to the other. The notion of acceptance seems evident in the subject’s willingness to share a mirror, a reflection of an inner reflection; the gestures of the hands demonstrate an act of giving – an offering of the self, to one, and an offering of the suffering self, to another.

Empathy, therefore, becomes a tool of deconstruction, a temporary elimination of the mirror, an entry into love.

Sharing Face with Me in The Shadow   (2015)  Ink on Korean Paper 26 x 69 cm   Daehyun Kim

Sharing Face with Me in The Shadow (2015)

Ink on Korean Paper
26 x 69 cm

Daehyun Kim


I can’t see past your kind mask’


Sources:

“Empathy”. Random House Dictionary, Random House, 2016. Dictionary.com,http://www.dictionary.com/browse/empathy. Accessed: 09 October 2018.

Lacan, Jacques. “The mirror stage as a formative of the function of the I as revealed in psychoanalytic experience” (1949), In Écrit: A Selection, trans. Alan Sheridan. NY, W.W. Norton, 1982. 1-7. Rpt. In SOCS 201: Introduction to Cultural Theory Coursepack.Ed. Magnolia Pauker. Vancouver: Emily Carr University of Art + Design, 2016. Print.

Pauker, Magnolia. “Who are I? The Uses of Psychoanalysis”, Lecture. Social Science 201: Introduction to Cultural Theory. Emily Carr Institute of Art + Design. Vancouver. 4 Oct. 2016.

A starting point

Untitled Render   (2018)

Untitled Render (2018)

To what extent can art, through technology, attempt to bridge the gap between the conscious and subconscious mind; Exposing our histories and drives to better understand the self and its communal existence? 

Can art be used as a tool to facilitate the reconciliation of trauma and the understanding of the self; can the making or witnessing of art play a role in healing wounds within ourselves or wounds within others?

Can art play a role in exposing the flaws of ‘neuro-typical’ ideologies (Binary systems) as a way to strengthen the understanding and acceptance of difference?

What is empathy?